Red Hot Dance

Seven years ago, a coworker invited me to her favorite Zumba class, led by her good friend Nancy. It was a life-changing night for both of us; for her, it was the night she officially weighed 100lbs less than she had nine months before, and for me, it was the night I discovered a passion for dance.

I loved Zumba, and attended three to five classes a week. I would rearrange my work schedule to make sure I could go. I brought friends with me and got them hooked too.  In 2013, my friend Kate and I even got certified to be Zumba instructors and led a class together (she went on to be a favorite instructor alongside Nancy).

After moving out of the area, I did still attend Nancy’s Zumba class every now and then, but it was ultimately too far to drive. I found Beachbody On Demand, which I love, and it was a great tool for keeping me consistent in my workouts. Still, I missed Zumba terribly.

A few weeks ago, my friend Kelly was telling me about Harbor Square Athletic Club, the new gym she and her husband had just joined. She encouraged me to get a six-day pass to check it out, and I’m glad I did. I love working out with her, and I cannot say enough nice things about Harbor Square. Everything is so modern and clean, the studios for group classes are spacious, and the women’s locker room was recently remodeled and is absolutely beautiful. There’s a smoothie bar, tennis courts, and a pool for lap swim (and you can reserve lanes for swimming!). I loved it instantly, and after taking Husband with me to check it out we ultimately became members.

When I looked at the group class schedule, I was a little bummed that there were only a couple of weekday morning Zumba classes, but I was intrigued when I saw an evening class called Red Hot Dance. The schedule described RHD as a “fun, exhilarating, calorie-burning dance party”.

Kelly and I went, and I was instantly hooked. The class was SO much fun! The dance steps were similar to the ones I loved at Nancy’s Zumba classes, the songs were fun to dance to, and I felt so happy dancing again. Some of the moves were pretty challenging (my body is 15lbs heavier now, and let me know it all through class) but I’m hoping that with time and practice I’ll get my former groove back. I am so happy to have dance in my life again!

 

Nutrition and Fitness – January Check-In

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Bill and I had embarked on the 21-Day Fix as a way to get into the habit of working out more frequently this year. Being more physically active is important to me, and committing to starting my day with a workout seemed like a great way to improve!

So, how’d it go?

It went great…until last weekend, when I missed the last two workouts. Saturday morning, I woke up at 5am (yes, that is an ungodly hour on a weekend!) to get my workout in before Bill and I headed to Seattle to participate in the Women’s March. When my alarm went off, I got up and put my workout clothes on as usual, but I felt terrible. I definitely know what it feels like to wake up groggy, but this was a whole different feeling entirely. My body was telling me that it needed SLEEP. And so I listened, and went back to bed for an hour, and when I woke up again I felt so much more refreshed and energetic!

I don’t feel too awful about having missed Saturday’s workout, because we ended up spending the entire day on our feet. My Garmin logged a total of 16,400 steps for the day! I definitely got lots of exercise on Saturday.

Sunday should have been yoga day, and I really have no excuse for missing that workout. I just plain didn’t do it. I woke up late and we had shopping to do, and I just didn’t make myself do the workout.

I didn’t finish strong, and that bums me out. But I know that even with missing those two workouts, I still did a lot for my health in January than I did during any of the months in 2016. I did get better. I did get stronger.

Bill and I decided that we are committing to another round of 21-Day Fix. I woke up Monday morning feeling energized and ready to re-commit…only to have my Internet connection crash just as I was doing the first move of the workout. By the time we got the connection restored, there wasn’t enough time to finish the workout. I was definitely aggravated, and I felt cranky and low-energy all day. It’s amazing how quickly my body has come to crave those morning workouts!  Tuesday morning, after two days of no exercise, everything seemed to re-align and we were able to begin our next round. Today was our fourth day, and this time, I am going to finish 21 days straight no matter what!

I didn’t lose any weight during our first 21-Day Fix, although I definitely gained muscle tone. I wish I had taken measurements before I started so that I would have a better idea of inches lost – we’ll do measurements this time around! I guess I thought that the workouts would just make the weight fall off of me, but this week I had one of those aha moments where it hit me that I need to start thinking of fitness and nutrition as very different things with different results. I work out to feel good, to build muscle, and to keep my body strong. To lose weight, I need to eat healthy foods and be mindful of my portion sizes.

Last fall, I signed up for Weight Watchers, and at first I was happy on the program. Over time, though, I’ve felt restricted by the plan. The SMART Points calculation is rather complicated, and it was hard for me to predict how many point values a food will have. When I was at the grocery store, I would have to stand and scan the labels of everything I bought before I would buy it, because I did NOT want surprises. Some things had so many points that I could just never have them (a chocolate chip cookie from Panera Bread is 380 calories, which I could easily fit into my day if I were calorie-counting, but those cookies are 17 SMART Points!…and don’t even get me started on the occasional movie popcorn). I found myself omitting days if I knew I was going way over my points. I was also noticing myself picking things that had lower point values, like brands of Greek yogurt, even though I was comparing labels and knew that the brand with the higher point values was better for me to eat. I could have a turkey sandwich on a flatbread for 3 points, but my beloved Shakeology shakes are 7 points.

I tried attending some of the meetings at work, but I didn’t really get much out of them that I couldn’t learn on my own doing research online. I had thought it would be great to be supported in a community at work, but no one really seemed interested in getting to know each other. It felt like a bust. I haven’t been back since the week before Thanksgiving, because I just honestly wasn’t getting the benefit from it.

Last week, I decided to take a break from Weight Watchers and go back to calorie-counting, which is much simpler. When I lost weight in 2012, it was by using Lose It to track my food. I wasn’t dieting or restricting any kind of food, I just counted calories and tracked everything I ate. It worked incredibly well. This time, I’m using MyFitnessPal instead. The app on my phone works better, and there are a lot of foods already built into the tracker so I don’t have to look things up and do a lot of math to track a meal. Because calorie-counting is second nature to me, it’s very simple to keep up with.

I’m going to give calorie-counting a try for the remainder of my 21-Day Fix workouts and see how it goes. Truthfully I’m quite happy at my current weight, and if my body stays the way it is now I’ll be perfectly happy. I do want to be more aware of what I’m plopping in my mouth though!

Overall I’d say January has been a successful month for fitness for me, and while nutrition-wise I definitely have room for improvement, I’m happy to be trying something new and I’m confident that I’m going to find something that works. My plan for this year is to do a fitness and nutrition check-in once a month, so we’ll see where I’m at in February!

 

Health and Fitness 2017

It’s January, and we all know what that means….the gym parking lot is beyond packed, our Instagram feeds are full of healthy living quotes and sweaty post-workout selfies, and the blogs we read are full of New Year’s Resolutions and promises to make 2017 the best year ever.

I dearly love a fresh start and have been known to start off a new year with an assortment of well-meaning resolutions for myself. This year is a little different, though: I don’t have a gym membership anymore, and my only diet-related resolution  is that I’ll never go on another diet for the rest of my life. But I do want to get back into a regular fitness routine, as I miss feeling strong and in shape. It’s not about weight loss for me anymore, it’s about keeping myself as healthy as possible so I can do as much as possible.

Unsure where to start, I checked the group fitness class schedules at gyms near my office and my house, but nothing really lined up with my work hours. If a workout isn’t convenient for me, I know I won’t stay committed to it. I’ve tried working out at home in the evenings before, but was never consistent….many times I’d have a long day, or would have plans in the evening, and it was easy to justify skipping my workout. Ultimately, I decided to push back my start time at work by half an hour, so that I could wake up at the same time I normally do, but get my exercise in before I started my workday. There are no excuses not to get up and work out. I never have plans at 5am. And so, I committed to myself that I would work out first thing in the morning, five days a week.

The next question I had to answer for myself was, what workouts will I follow? Bill and I have the Core Secrets videos led by Gunnar Peterson, and we have Hour of Power. Those would be a good start, but I know that doing the same workouts over and over again will not only leave me feeling bored, but will challenge my body less over time. So when my friend Alisha posted on her Instragram account that Beachbody was now offering unlimited on-demand access for only $99 for a year,  I decided that the price was too good to pass up and jumped at the opportunity.

For my first series of workouts, I decided to try 21-Day Fix. It fit with the time I had in the mornings – each workout is 30 minutes, and the idea is to rotate through the different videos for a full 21 days. Remember when I had initially committed to myself to work out five days a week? I decided that, at least for these 21 days, that I was going to work out every single day.

So, you’re probably wondering how it’s been going so far. I’m on day 10 of 21, and I haven’t missed a workout! These workouts are HARD; they definitely make the most of my 30 minutes! My biggest motivator so far has been that Bill decided to work out with me, even though he hates waking up early!

I admit, I’m actually starting to enjoy this morning ritual, and it sets me up to feel more energetic and committed to making healthy food choices all day long. By the time I jump in the shower at 5:45am, I’ve already accomplished something for myself, which is a great way to start the day!

Egg White Omelette Muffins

Ever hear the saying “You can’t out-exercise a poor diet”? I have, and after losing ten pounds last year I totally believe it’s true – I barely exercised, but started tracking what I was eating through my Weight Watchers app, and the weight started coming off.

This year, I am re-committing to exercise (more about that soon!), but I also want to stay focused on creating healthy recipes and eating well, at least most of the time! Now that the holidays are over, hopefully those tempting homemade treats will be gone from the office and I’ll be able to snack on Greek yogurt and apple slices without fear of missing out on the tasty treats my coworkers made!

My days are usually pretty busy, so it’s essential that I grocery shop and meal-prep on weekends. Last year I got into making little egg white muffins, but to be honest, they were pretty bland by themselves. I started experimenting with ways to make them a little more tasty, and this morning I think I hit on a recipe that’s a winner. I shared a photo of my breakfast in my accountability group on Facebook and was almost immediately asked how I made them, so I’m sharing the recipe here. Feel free to add in your own veggies and let me know if you find something amazing!

Egg White Omelette Muffins

What You’ll Need:

1 32-oz carton of egg whites (I buy whatever’s on sale at the grocery store)
Fresh spinach leaves
1 can of diced tomatoes
5 mushrooms (diced)

What to Do:

Preheat your oven to 350. Spray a 12-muffin muffin tin with no-stick cooking spray (or else these egg whites will stick forever, trust me!). Fill each muffin cup with a leaf or two of spinach, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms (cup should be about halfway full). Pour egg whites into each cup until it is filled. Bake for 25 minutes.

I find that using a small rubber spatula works best for extracting the muffins from the tin. I refrigerate them and eat two each morning for breakfast. The muffins will reheat nicely in a microwave for about 45 seconds.

Enjoy!

Addressing the Nagging Thoughts

Last week I joined Weight Watchers, and it was like a light switched on in my brain. In the last six days, I’ve found myself cooking healthy dinners, swapping out unhealthy snacks for fruits and veggies, and feeling a lot more in control of what I was putting in my mouth without feeling restricted. I have my first meeting tomorrow during my lunch hour and am looking forward to it.

So far, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive….but there’s something that’s been nagging at the back of my mind, and that something is the fact that I know not everyone has had a positive WW experience – self included. I remember laughing as I read an excerpt from Jen Lancaster’s Such a Pretty Fat when she attended a WW meeting and detailed how crazy the group leader was and how WW meeting attendees seemed to have a vendetta against office birthday cake. Of course, I figured that some of that was embellished for comedic affect in the book…until I attended a WW meeting with my friend Angela six years ago. One of the women in the meeting candidly told us about how she couldn’t control herself with food and that she would not only put unhealthy treats directly into the garbage, but that she would also spray them down with hairspray so that she wouldn’t be tempted to fish them back out of the trash and eat them later. To me, that just screamed “I need counseling!”, but others at the meeting were quick to sympathize with her and to share their own tales of ruining food so that they wouldn’t return to munch out of the garbage in a moment of weakness.

Looking back, I’m really surprised that WW meeting leaders condoned this kind of behavior. Surely they should be pulling these poor people aside after meetings and recommending a good therapist? The fact that no one voiced a concern that this was unhealthy was a huge turn-off for me, and I didn’t feel any pull to go back.

I gave WW another shot last spring, after a glowing endorsement from my friend Sarah about how great her experience with the program had been. I went, and was instantly drawn to the group. These people were positive, upbeat, and endlessly supportive of one another. Nobody griped about birthday cake or talked about covering leftovers in Aqua Net before tossing them out. Maybe the program has turned itself around, or maybe Jen Lancaster and I just happened upon some messed-up meetings. I really hope my new group at work will be more like Sarah’s was, because that’s exactly the kind of upbeat support system I feel I need right now.

I really hope this experience remains positive for me. I’m feeling so optimistic and I really want to hang onto that. That said, I will make this pledge to myself right now: if this plan begins to affect me negatively, I will stop. If the food tracking leads to obsessive thoughts about food or urges to restrict food, I will move away from it (I don’t really anticipate this happening, as I tracked my food via the Lose It! app very religiously for years and had no problem with it). If the meeting at work is not the environment I need, I will go with Sarah to hers or I will change my WW membership to online only. I will do this only in a healthy way.

If you have a WW story, good or bad, feel free to share it with me!

Motivation Monday: Planning Ahead

Happy Monday and Happy Halloween! While it’s sort of a bummer that Halloween falls on a Monday this year, hopefully it will still be a fun day! I haven’t done a Motivation Monday post in a reeeeaaaaally long time, but since I’m trying to get myself back on track I thought I’d start it up again.

I was less in the spirit than usual this Halloween, I admit. Normally I like to come up with a cute costume to wear to work, and I have an entire bin of costumes to choose from. I vaguely thought about finding something for today, but I knew no one at work was very enthusiastic about dressing up and it’s just not as much fun if I’m the only one wearing a costume. So I opted to abstain from dressing up this year, much to the chagrin of one of my coworkers, who came dressed in full witch garb and armed with a plethora of extra costumes for those of us who failed to participate. I am now sporting a bright pink skirt speckled with musical notes and vinyl records that say ‘Rock’ and ‘Roll’, which I have paired with a tiara that I just happened to have on hand (shut up). When asked, I inform people that I am the Queen of Rock and Roll.

img_4379

Foreseeing that we would be a disappointment when it came to dressing up, my coworker planned ahead and brought extra outfits. Similarly, I planned ahead today with my food so I wouldn’t end up disappointed in myself. As is typical of Halloween, the office is full of junk food: fried chicken, candy, cookies, snack mix. It’s everywhere, and yet I’m surprisingly disinterested in it all. I packed my lunch today and filled it full of oranges, grapes, and apple slices to snack on. For lunch I made a sandwich with slices of turkey breast, shredded lettuce, and a bit of mustard on a Flatout Foldit artisan flatbread that I found at Safeway (here is the brand). Those flatbreads are only three points each! The points system is definitely making me more mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth.

I’m learning that it is FAR easier to stay under my daily WW points if I check point values on things BEFORE I buy them, hence the flatbread sandwich today. I went grocery shopping over the weekend armed with my app, and before I let anything into my cart I scanned its barcode to make sure it wasn’t going to put me over where I wanted to be. I’m also making good use of Pinterest and all the great recipes on there! Having lots of delicious food on hand to eat has helped me so much today – not only do I really not want to waste points on junk food, but I’m actually excited to eat what I brought for myself!

Recommitting to Health and Fitness

img_4234

I suppose the meme says it all, but the storm I was all geared up for in my last post never happened, at least in our area (sending love to Oregon and Canada, who really did experience the worst of it). All the storm hype had me pretty anxious, even though I was certainly prepared for it, and Sunday night I fell asleep early.

Even without having to work extra hours after a storm, the last couple of weeks have been extremely busy for me at work. I’m hoping things will be quieter this week, because I’m trying to make some healthy changes that are going to require me to do more than just go to work, come home, and sit on my couch.

Last week, I attended an informational Weight Watchers meeting at work. My office is trying to generate enough interest in the program to offer weekly lunchtime meetings, which would be fantastic for me. I know that I do better with eating healthy when I have support, and being able to attend a meeting right at my office instead of after work would be ideal. Work will cover half the cost of a WW membership, so I ultimately decided to go ahead and join the program. If we don’t end up having meetings at work, I have a friend who also belongs to WW who offered to go to an evening meeting with me.

To me, the appeal of WW is that there are no off-limits foods. I get a certain number of SMART points a day, and I can eat anything I like as long as I don’t go over my allotment. There are weekly points too, to give some cushion if need be. After I signed up last week, I downloaded the WW app on my phone so that I could track electronically. Once I had the hang of the app, I started entering all the things I had eaten so far that day….and was shocked at how many points I’d already consumed! While I had felt pretty good about my food choices from a calorie-counting standpoint, once I saw the more holistic view of what I’d eaten that the points offer, I realized that I could’ve made healthier choices.

The last few days have been a learning curve, as I try to modify my eating and select foods with lower point values. I created a Pinterest board for WW recipes and have been pinning like mad, because cooking meals at home seems to be the best way to keep my points low and my satisfaction with my food high. Last night I made a broccoli pasta dish, and tonight I’m planning on making a WW chicken chili recipe and baking a side of corn bread (the recipe I found is only 2 points per square!).

This week I’m hoping to focus not only on getting better at eating according to my WW points, but also on getting back into exercising regularly. My work life has been so busy lately that I’m waking up at 5am to go into the office early, and then I’m staying late so that I can stay caught up. This week, the workload will hopefully be lighter (a coworker of mine has been on vacation so I’ve been covering her work and mine, but she comes back tomorrow) and my plan is to take advantage of being able to leave at a reasonable time by working out in the evenings. I don’t currently have a gym membership anywhere, and while I’d like to do my workouts from home to save money I’m beginning to seriously doubt that I’m disciplined enough to keep myself motivated. If I can’t step it up on my own, I’ll be on the hunt for a new gym to join.

Over the last few years I’ve made multiple attempts at re-losing the weight I’ve gained, and every one of those attempts has been a failure. I think that I’ve been going wrong by trying to follow fad diets like Dukan and Medifast. While the quick results I can get from those diets definitely make them appealing, I’m miserable when I’m on them and any success is short-lived once I go back to eating normally. I don’t want to do that again. I’ve lost seven pounds since August just by trying to be a little more mindful of what I’m eating, and for the first time I feel like it might actually be possible to lose some of this extra weight for good. I don’t have a set “goal weight”; rather, I just want my wedding dress to zip up and fit comfortably (it’s currently a bit more snug than I would like). Hopefully a combination of following WW and getting back to an exercise routine will get me there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Habits

One of my favorite things about being a blogger is the network of fellow writers that I’ve gained over the years. We read each other’s posts, offer support to one another, and make each other stronger. I adore you, my blog buddies, and I love how inspiring and thought-provoking all of your posts are!

Today my friend Kate over at All Things Kate wrote just such a post, in which she pledges to give up sugar for thirty days to get her sweet tooth under control. So much of what she says really hit home for me – especially about how she rarely understood after the fact just why she accepted offers of food that she knew she didn’t really want to eat. She talks about how she’s realized that her love of chocolate and sweet treats is more of an eating habit than just having a sweet in moderation. As I read her honest words, the little metaphorical light bulb didn’t just flick gently on above my head; rather, it lit up brighter than the Griswold house at Christmas time. I am SO guilty of this very behavior, of eating a dessert one day, having a couple of beers the next, popcorn at the movies the day after that…you get the idea. This isn’t eating in moderation, this is a habit.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ve really improved my eating habits and that I’m making healthy choices most of the time, but now that I’m looking back, I don’t think that’s actually true. Rather, I think that I was eating healthier meals, but then using that as justification to supplement those meals with desserts and treats. I’ve been deluding myself, but I don’t want to anymore. I want to be honest with myself about what I’m putting in my body, and I want to break this junk food habit and move back to a standard of healthier eating.

By myself, I can do pretty well. I can plan what I’m going to eat and make healthy meals for myself. I can pack my lunches for work. But I have a hard time resisting invitations to go out for food/drinks with friends, because I love my friends and I want to spend time with them so I always hate to say no. Office food is a struggle too – it seems like someone’s always bringing in donuts or cookies or other such fare. The craziest part of the whole thing is that I know I feel so much better when I resist these things, and yet I still want to eat them.

So what does all this mean? I think that each person approaches their eating differently, and different things work for different people. For me right now, this newfound awareness of how I’m REALLY eating is pretty strong motivation to make changes. It also doesn’t hurt that I have a fast-approaching wedding and a beautiful wedding dress that I want to feel fabulous wearing. I am going to do my best to be healthier, because I can’t keep up this junk food habit and maintain the active lifestyle that I want to live in the long run.

 

Biking to Work

Right now my coworkers and I are experiencing some driving pains, as the streets all around our office are being torn up and repaved before winter. There is a LOT of construction going on, and there are pieces of equipment and cones everywhere. Yesterday when I left work, I was very confused about where I was supposed to go, even with a flagger standing in the middle of the street to assist! Luckily, I work earlier in the day on Mondays, so I got to work before the road work started and left before most people in the office buildings lining the street were ready to head home.

I knew that today would be worse, since I would be arriving for and leaving work around the same time as most of the other people. If there’s one thing that makes me crazy, it’s being stuck in traffic, especially traffic that is just not moving. I had an important meeting scheduled for today, so there was no way I could just work from home, I had to come to the office. But I decided that I didn’t have to drive, I could ride my bike instead.

I love my bike. I’ve had it for just about four months now, and in those four months I have gained a lot of confidence. This morning was a new milestone for me, my first solo ride. I decided to drive as far as Log Boom Park, then ride the Burke-Gilman trail a little over six miles to my office.

I had taken the route before and was comfortable with it, and it was a beautiful morning for a bike ride. Bill went to the park with me to help me unload my bike from my car and make sure I got started out all right (have I mentioned that he is the best fiancee ever?). I kept my ride leisurely, averaging a pace of 10mph, both because I wanted to enjoy the experience and also because I didn’t want to get super sweaty! My office does have a shower that employees can use, but I didn’t want to have to re-wash my hair.

It took me just over half an hour to arrive at the office, which was considerably less time than it would’ve taken me to get through all the road work to park!

Even though the road construction is still going to be a pain (I can’t bike to work every day, there are days I will need my car during the day), I’m glad that it pushed me to try biking to work because I really enjoyed the new experience. Sometimes great things can come out of minor inconveniences if we use them the right way!

 

Hiking Mt. Pilchuck

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost halfway through August! Summer is winding down, although it’s been so warm out lately that it’s hard to believe that fall will be here soon.

Although I absolutely love the city of Seattle and all it has to offer, sometimes I crave fresh air and mountains and wilderness. Luckily for me, one of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that both the city and the mountains are an easy drive from my home in Edmonds.

Last weekend, Bill and I got our mountain fix by hiking up Mt. Pilchuck. The trail up to the summit is fairly short, 2.7 miles, but it is STEEP. I admit that I found it extremely challenging, although well worth it – the views are breathtaking!

I thought that we were incredibly prepared for the hike. We brought along our day packs, filled with bottles of ice cold water and Cliff bars to snack on along the way. I remembered the sunscreen, but quickly wished I had brought bug spray – the bugs ate me alive along the way!

We had a blast and are already scouting out locations for our next hike!

pilchuck 4

Bill and I at the summit

Pilchuck 3

Fire lookout at the summit

Pilchuck 1 Pilchuck 2